The Sixties: Diaries:1960-1969, Page 92Christopher Isherwood
Osborne married five times; first to Pamela Lane, an actress, then to Ure, then to Penelope Gilliatt. His fourth wife, from 1969 to 1978, was Jill Bennett (1931–1990), the British actress, who starred in several of his plays and died a suicide. Finally, he married Helen Dawson (d. 2004), drama critic and arts editor at The Observer during the 1960s, and remained with her until his death. He wrote three volumes of autobiography, A Better Class of Person (1981), Almost a Gentle man (1991), and Damn You, England (1994).
Page, Anthony (Tony) (b. 1935). Oxford-educated British actor and director, born in India. He was Artistic Director at the Royal Court from 1964 to 1973 and directed five plays there by John Osborne, three during 1968, when Bachardy contributed drawings to the programs. In 1966, he asked Isherwood to adapt Wedekind’s Lulu plays, Erdgeist (Earthsprite, 1895) and Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora’s Box, 1904), but the project wasn’t completed. He also directed productions of Ibsen, Tennessee Williams, Albee and others in the West End and at the National Theatre and in New York. He made a few movies, including I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (1977) and later became known for his television documentaries, biographies, and mini-series.
Pagli. Vedanta nun; her real name was Amelia Monsour. Her nickname, Pagli, means madwoman; she had a reputation for well-meaning loopiness, but was not mad. Isherwood struggled with the spelling of her name, but usually got it right. After sannyas she became Amitaprana. She left the convent to care for her sick father and became proprietor of Travels with Amelia, a Hollywood travel agency, but remained a Vedanta devotee.
Pakula, Alan (1928–1998). New York-born producer and director; educated at Yale School of Drama. He began his Hollywood career in the cartoon department at Warner Brothers in 1949. His first big success as a producer was To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). He also produced and directed Klute (1971), produced Inside Daisy Clover (1965), directed All the President’s Men (1976), and directed, co-produced and scripted Sophie’s Choice (1982). He was Hope Lange’s second husband, from 1963 to 1969, and later married writer Hannah Boorstin. Isherwood habitually misspelled his surname as Pacula. He appears in D.1.
Paley, William (Bill) (1901–1990). American media mogul; son of a Ukrainian cigar manufacturer; educated at the University of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania. He bought CBS in 1928 when it was a small radio network and developed it into the radio and T.V. giant which he ran for over fifty years. During World War II, he was deputy chief of psychological warfare for the Allies. He was a figure in American cultural and intellectual life, devoting time to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, to hospitals, universities, and think tanks. His second wife, Barbara (Babe) Cushing Mortimer (1915–1978), a Boston-born society beauty, was one of Truman Capote’s closest friends from 1955 until 1975. She epitomized the glamor of the rich women Capote called his Swans, but she ended their friendship when she discovered that Capote was using her private life as material for his fiction.
Parker, Dorothy (1893–1967). American poet, short story writer, journalist, and literary critic; born in New Jersey. Celebrated for her wit and associated with the Algonquin Hotel in New York where for years she lunched with writer friends. Her brief first marriage was to a New York stockbroker, Edwin Parker. She contributed to The New Yorker from its debut and to many other American magazines. Her 1929 short story “The Big Blonde” won the O. Henry Prize. She wrote plays—Close Harmony (1929) with Elmer Rice and Ladies of the Corridor (1953) with Arnaud d’Usseau—and screenplays—notably A Star is Born (1937) and Hitchcock’s Saboteur (1942) with her second husband, Alan Campbell. She protested the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti in 1927, covered the Spanish Civil War for The New Masses, and was involved in the founding of the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League and other Hollywood committees opposing fascism; she also supported the Civil Rights movement and willed her estate to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She was blacklisted at the end of the 1940s and later testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee where, in contrast to many of her colleagues, she cited the First Amendment (freedom of speech) instead of the Fifth (the right not to serve witness against oneself ). She took over Isherwood’s teaching position at L.A. State College when he left, during the 1960s. Bachardy drew her portrait a number of times during the same period.
Parone, Edward (Ed). American stage director. He assisted Gordon Davidson with the professional Theater Group at UCLA, where he directed Oh! What a Lovely War. In 1967, he moved with Davidson to the Mark Taper Forum and ran New Theater for Now to develop new plays, including A Meeting by the River in 1972, directed by Jim Bridges. He stayed at the Mark Taper Forum for about twelve years, and was a director in residence and eventually associate artistic director, turning his hand to producing, writing, and editing. He was also assistant to the producer on The Misfits and directed for T.V.
Pavitrananda, Swami. Indian monk of the Ramakrishna Order; head of the Vedanta Society in New York, on the Upper West Side, and a trustee of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission. He spent many years in the order’s editorial center, Advaita Ashrama, at Mayavati in the Himalayas. He often paid a month-long visit to Swami Prabhavananda during the summers. Other than Prabhavananda, he was Isherwood’s favorite swami.
Peggy. See Kiskadden, Peggy.
Pfeiffer, Virginia (1902–1973). A sister-in-law and friend of Ernest Hemingway; born in St. Louis to a wealthy pharmaceutical manufacturer and raised on her family’s 60,000 acre farm in Piggott, Arkansas. During the 1920s, she travelled with her older sister Pauline Pfeiffer in Europe; they befriended Hemingway and his first wife Hadley in Paris, and Pauline married Hemingway in 1927. Virginia was often with the Hemingways in Paris, Key West, Cuba, and Bimini during the 1930s, and she renovated a barn at the family property in Arkansas for Hemingway to work in. When it burned down, she renovated it again. She sometimes took charge of their two sons and of Hemingway’s son from his first marriage. Hemingway left Pauline for Martha Gellhorn in 1940, and Pauline died at Virginia’s house in Hollywood in 1951. Laura Archera lived with Virginia for many years before marrying Aldous Huxley. Virginia adopted two children, Juan and Paula, whom Laura helped her raise. After they married, the Huxleys settled in a house in Deronda Drive in the Hollywood Hills a few hundred yards from Virginia’s house, and Virginia and Laura continued to be frequent companions. In May, 1961, both houses burned down in a bush fire; Virginia moved, in the autumn, to a nearby house in Mulholland Drive and invited the Huxleys to join her there. Aldous Huxley died in that house two years later.
Phipps, William Edward (Bill) (b. 1922). American actor, born in Indiana. He made his first Hollywood film in 1947, appeared in a number of science fiction movies in the 1950s, and continued to act in films and T.V. until 2000. He was a friend of Charles Laughton, who introduced him to Isherwood and Bachardy. He is mentioned in D.1.
Plomer, William (1903–1973). British poet and novelist born and raised in South Africa. He met Isherwood in 1932 through Stephen Spender after Spender showed Isherwood Plomer’s poems and stories about South Africa and Japan. Plomer was a friend of E.M. Forster and soon introduced Isherwood. In South Africa, Plomer and Roy Campbell had founded Voorslag (Whiplash), a literary magazine for which they wrote most of the satirical material (Laurens van der Post was also an editor). Plomer taught for two years in Japan, then, in 1929, settled in Bloomsbury where he was befriended by the Woolfs who had published his first novel, Turbott Wolff (1926). In 1937, he became principal reader for Jonathan Cape where, among other things, he brought out Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. During the war he worked in naval intelligence. He also wrote libretti for Benjamin Britten, notably Gloriana (1953). A 1943 arrest for soliciting a sailor in Paddington station was hushed up, but led Plomer to destroy correspondence with homosexual friends and to practice extreme circumspection in his private life. He lived with Charles Erdmann, who was born in London of a German father and Polish mother, raised in Germany from about age five, and returned in 1939 to England where he w
orked as a waiter and pastry-cook. He appears in D.1.
Plowright, Joan (b. 1929). British actress; trained at the Old Vic Theatre School. She first appeared on the London stage in 1954 and joined Tony Richardson and George Devine’s London Stage Company in 1956. Isherwood met her when she was in the New York production of A Taste of Honey in 1960. During the same year, she starred with Laurence Olivier in The Entertainer at the Royal Court; she then appeared with Olivier in the film, and later in the stage and film versions of Chekhov’s Three Sisters. She became Olivier’s third wife in 1961, and they had two children. In the early 1960s, she and Olivier joined the National Theatre Company when it was founded at the Old Vic in London, and she played leads in Chekhov, Shaw, and Ibsen. Later, she played Shakespeare and had a long West End run in De Filippo’s Saturday, Sunday, Monday (1973) followed eventually by his Filumena. She also appeared in the stage (1973) and film (1977) versions of Equus. Among her other movies are Moby Dick (1956), Uncle Vanya (1963), 101 Dalmatians (1996), and Tea with Mussolini (1999). She appears in D.1.
Prabhaprana (Prabha) (d. 1998). Originally Phoebe Nixon, she was the daughter of Alice Nixon (Tarini) and after sannyas became Pravrajika Prabhaprana. The Nixons were wealthy southerners. Isherwood first met Prabha in the early 1940s at the Hollywood Vedanta Society, where she handled much of the administrative and secretarial work, and he grew to love her genuinely. By the mid-1950s, Prabha was manager of the Sarada Convent in Santa Barbara. She appears in D.1.
Prabhavananda, Swami (1893–1976). Hindu monk of the Ramakrishna Order, founder of the Vedanta Society of Southern California based in Hollywood. Gerald Heard introduced Isherwood to Swami Prabhavananda in July 1939. On their second meeting, August 5, Prabhavananda began to instruct Isherwood in meditation; on November 8, 1940 he initiated Isherwood, giving him a mantram and a rosary. From February 1943 until August 1945 Isherwood lived monastically at the Vedanta Society, but decided he could not become a monk as Swami wished. He continued to be closely involved with the Vedanta Society, travelled twice to its headquarters in India, and remained Prabhavananda’s disciple and close friend for life. Their relationship is described in My Guru and His Disciple, and Prabhavananda appears in D.1 and Lost Years, as well as providing inspiration for A Meeting by the River.
Prabhavananda was born Abanindra Nath Ghosh, in a Bengali village northwest of Calcutta. As a teenager he read about Ramakrishna and his disciples Vivekananda and Brahmananda and felt mysteriously attracted to their names. By chance he experienced an affecting meeting with Ramakrishna’s widow, Sarada Devi. At eighteen he visited the Belur Math, the chief monastery of the Ramakrishna Order beside the Ganges outside Calcutta. There he had another important encounter, this time with Brahmananda, and abandoned his studies for a month to follow him. When he returned to Calcutta, he became involved in militant opposition to British rule, and joined a revolutionary organization for which he wrote and distributed propaganda. At one time, he took charge of some stolen weapons, and some of his friends who engaged in terrorist activities met with violent ends. Because he was studying philosophy, Abanindra attended Belur Math regularly for instruction in the teachings of Shankara, but he regarded the monastic life as escapist and put his political duties first, until he had another compelling experience with Brahmananda and suddenly decided to give up his political activities and become a monk. He took his final vows in 1921, when his name was changed to Prabhavananda.
In 1923 he was sent to the U.S. to assist the swami at the Vedanta Society in San Francisco; later he opened a new center in Portland, Oregon. He was joined there by Sister Lalita and later, in 1929, founded the Vedanta Society of Southern California in her house in Hollywood, 1946 Ivar Avenue. Several other women joined them. By the mid-1930s the society began to expand and money was donated for a temple which was built in the garden and dedicated in July 1938. Prabhavananda remained the head of the Hollywood society until he died; he frequently visited the Ramakrishna monastery in Trabuco and the Sarada Convent in Santa Barbara and also stayed in the home of a devotee in Laguna Beach.
Isherwood and Prabhavananda worked on a number of books together, notably translations of the Bhagavad Gita (1944) and of the yoga aphorisms of Patanjali (1953). Prabhavananda contributed to two collections on Vedanta edited by Isherwood, and Isherwood also worked on Prabhavananda’s translation of Shankara’s Crest Jewel of Discrimination (1947). Prabhavananda persuaded Isherwood to write a biography of Ramakrishna, Ramakrishna and His Disciples (1964); this became an official project of the Ramakrishna Order and was subject to chapter-by-chapter review by a high authority at the Belur Math.
pranam. Greeting of respect made by folding the palms, by taking the dust of the feet (i.e., touching the greeted one’s foot and then touching one’s own forehead), or by prostrating. Namaskar, from the same Sanskrit root “nam” for a salutation expressing love and respect, can also be made in a variety of ways depending upon local tradition and social situation: verbally, by nodding, by folding the palms, by bending at the knees to touch the ground with the forehead, or by lying flat on the ground.
prasad. Food or any gift consecrated by being offered to God or a saintly person in a Hindu ceremony of worship; the food is usually eaten as part of the meal following the ritual, or the gift given to the devotees.
Prema Chaitanya (Prema) (1913–2000). American monk of the Ramakrishna Order, originally named John Yale and later known as Swami Vidyatmananda; born in Lansing, Michigan, educated at Olivet College in Illinois, Michigan State College, and later at the University of Southern California where he obtained a doctorate in education. He taught high school before moving to Chicago in 1938 and working as a schoolbook editor. In 1941, he tried unsuccessfully to join the navy, and then in 1942 he joined Science Research Associates (SRA), a publishing house that specialized in teaching tools and psychological tests, and which was later bought by IBM. He ran SRA during the war and eventually became a director. While he was there, the entire male staff was interviewed by Alfred Kinsey for his work on Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, so Yale recorded his sexual history with one of Kinsey’s assistants and was made ill by recounting it. He decided to give up sex, evidently because he was homosexual.
In 1948, after reading Isherwood and Prabhavananda’s translation of the Bhagavad Gita and other works on Vedanta, he moved to Los Angeles, where he began instruction with Prabhavananda that November and moved into the Vedanta Society in Hollywood in April 1950. Isherwood met him at the Vedanta Society in the spring of 1949. In August 1955, Yale took his brahmacharya vows at Trabuco and was renamed Prema Chaitanya. He continued to live at the Hollywood society and briefly at Santa Barbara but never at Trabuco. He developed the Vedanta Society’s bookshop, building a mail-order business. He also edited the Vedanta Society magazine, Vedanta and the West, collaborating with Isherwood on the magazine’s chapter-by-chapter publication of Isherwood’s biography of Ramakrishna. Prema’s own 1961 book, A Yankee and the Swamis, describing his journey in 1952–1953 to the Ramakrishna monastery and various holy places in India, was also published serially in Vedanta and the West and caused a scandal with its remarks about the residents of the various places Prema visited; offending passages were deleted by Swami Prabhavananda from the final text. Prema also edited What Religion Is: In the Words of Swami Vivekananda, for which Isherwood wrote the introduction, and What Vedanta Means to Me (1960), to which Isherwood also contributed. He appears in D.1 and Lost Years, and Isherwood drew on his sannyas experience in India in 1963–1964 for A Meeting by the River, originally intended to be dedicated to him.
In his unpublished memoir “The Making of a Devotee,” Vidyatmananda tells that he became estranged from Prabhavananda while living at the Belur Math in India, where he discovered that the family model of religious life adopted by Swami Prabhavananda for the Hollywood Vedanta Society was not approved by the Ramakrishna Order, which advocated a strict monastic model with the sexes separated—officially only men could join the order. Swami had initi
ated many women and allowed them to live alongside the men because there were not enough devotees in southern California to populate two separate orders; Vidyatmananda began lobbying to have the nuns turned out of the Hollywood Vedanta Society. He also expressed surprise over his discovery in India that despite being a Westerner, he might still hope to rise through the hierarchy of the order, and even be permitted to transfer away from the Hollywood center. He remained in India for nearly a year, hoping to live there permanently, but he failed to find useful work, and returned to Hollywood after falling severely ill with paratyphoid. Swami Prabhavananda felt Prema’s discussions with the elders of the Belur Math were disloyal, and when in 1966 Prema was invited to transfer to the Centre Védantique Ramakrichna, east of Paris in Gretz, France, Swami wrote saying he wanted nothing more to do with him. They met again, however, in 1973, and Prabhavananda gave Vidyatmananda his blessing.